During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump famously asked African-Americans, “What do you have to lose?”
Now, the 45th president wants to show black America what he has to offer.
The Philadelphia Tribune, an NNPA sister newspaper, reported that Trump’s administration will host an “HBCU Fly-In” event with leaders from historically black colleges and universities on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
The daylong event, which takes place the same day that Trump will address a joint session of Congress, will be hosted by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), whose wife attended Winston-Salem State University, an HBCU in North Carolina.
The meeting is expected to include discussions about opportunity, strengthening relationships and the importance of HBCUs, in addition to a luncheon and wrap-up tour at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“For decades, our nation’s HBCUs have graduated amazing and talented individuals who have gone on to achieve remarkable accomplishments,” Scott said in a statement. “From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and famed writer Langston Hughes, we have seen how HBCU grads have shaped the direction of our country.”
Paris Dennard, a GOP political commentator and consultant, said while speaking to African-American leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Feb. 1 for the kickoff of Black History Month, that he discussed job creation, infrastructure in inner cities and HBCUs with Trump.
“I think [Trump] was very concerned about HBCUs as a whole,” he said. “He asked direct questions about the state of HBCUs currently and asked inquisitively what is the Harvard of HBCUs. Because there were two or three graduates in the room, they all chimed in and said Howard University.”
Omarosa Manigault, the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the administration, is an alumna of Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and Howard University in Washington, D.C.
She will participate in the “fly-in” along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Reps. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) and Mia Love (R-Utah) and former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).
Additionally, the schedule includes Cheryl Smith, vice president of Public Policy and Government Affairs at the United Negro College Fund and Johnny Taylor, the president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF).
“I think this is a good move, and it makes sense,” said Dennard, also the director of strategic communications for the TMCF.
“Most likely it will be Republican officials who have an impact on HBCUs especially since they are the majority in the House, Senate, and at the federal level,” Dennard said.
Dennard noted HBCU funding was cut under President Barack Obama, while changes were made to the Pell Grant, making it harder for low-income students to obtain monies.
Last year, the Obama administration said it invested $4 billion in HBCUs in seven years and created the White House Initiative on HBCUs.
“You don’t have a lot of presidents going to HBCUs,” said Renee Amoore, a Pennsylvania Republican who has worked with Trump’s transition team. “This dialogue started before (Trump) was president. He’s big on diversity inclusion,” Amoore said.
Dennard said the HBCU planning session, as well as the appointment of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, shows Trump’s commitment to education.
Previously, DeVos met with Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard.
“We had a robust discussion around the many challenges facing higher education and the important role of HBCU,” DeVos said in a statement. “Howard University plays a unique and valuable role in the fabric of our higher education system, and I am honored to help celebrate its 150th anniversary. I look forward to visiting many schools across our great country and continuing the discussion on how we can increase access to affordable, quality higher education.”
Randy Robinson, a Philadelphia Republican strategist, said he believes it’s a fantastic move.
“I hope Sen. Tim Scott, HBCU leaders and presidents have a serious agenda and a frank conversation,” Robinson said.